One of the more overlooked features of VoIP phone systems are virtual numbers, also known as virtual extensions. Virtual extensions can be implemented in a surprising number of ways for businesses, and they can be especially useful if a large part of your workforce uses mobile devices daily.
Some of the more interesting aspects of using virtual numbers are that they allow you to test out advertising campaigns in various markets, they allow employees to use their own mobile devices on business calls, and they can give the impression that your organization is much larger than it really is.
A VoIP extension is one which is not associated directly with any particular device, individual, or physical location within the company. It can be a cellphone number, or it might serve as a virtual mailbox which receives requests for customer service after hours. Depending on how your VoIP system is set up, your administrators may be able to direct calls to specific virtual extensions, depending on the time of day, or some other criterion.
Advantages Provided by Using Virtual Numbers
Entering new markets is one of the most common uses for VoIP extensions, since when you’ve decided to expand to a new area, it can be extremely beneficial to set up a VoIP extension which uses a local area code. This helps your business to establish a local presence without actually being physically in that location. This gives customers confidence that they can trust a call coming from their own area code, rather than one which is out of state or out of country. Businesses also will typically use virtual extensions so as to provide toll-free calls in their international markets, thereby lowering costs for their customers.
If you have a large mobile component to your work force, virtual extensions can be nearly indispensable. Some number of your employees may telecommute from client sites, while others are actually working directly from home. In this setup, your employees can use their own Android or iOS devices to make work calls, and the virtual extensions provide a boundary between the employees’ business phone number and their personal number. That is one great way of ensuring that personal calls don’t make their way onto your business account, and vice versa.
More and more companies these days also are required to provide phone support in several different languages, and this is another good application for virtual extensions. Instead of requiring customers to call for service, you can provide completely different virtual extensions for each language. Under the covers, all these VoIP virtual extensions will be forwarded to the same support department or contact center. As far as what your users see however, their calls are much easier to make, and are much easier for you to track.
Other Uses for Virtual Extensions
When you want to test out a new advertising campaign, one great way to do it is by using a virtual extension on your VoIP network. For instance, if you’re launching a new product or service using two different television commercials, you can assign different virtual numbers to each of the commercials and track all the calls coming in. Your marketing department will get a great feel for which ad is more effective, before putting it into widespread distribution.
You can also use virtual extensions to run multiple micro projects which you don’t really want to attach to the main brand image. A great many other uses are being discovered by creative marketers and advertisers, who desire to exploit the capabilities of VoIP virtual extensions. You can even use a virtual extension that has no connection at all with a desk or a person.
One good example is to set up an after-hours customer support desk, or to have a recorded message play during holidays. You could provide customers with useful information on operating hours, upcoming discounts or sales, or any other valuable information relevant to them. Any business person with a little creativity and innovative spirit will be sure to find even more ways of using VoIP virtual extensions to boost their business.
Does Your Business Need Virtual Extensions?
It’s really easy to set up virtual extensions in your VoIP network, and many providers charge the same price for an actual number or a virtual number. Depending on the package of features you get from your VoIP provider, it may be possible that your package already includes several free virtual extensions. Just like regular phone numbers, you can add virtual numbers as the need for them comes up, literally at any time. You also won’t be asked to commit to any set of virtual numbers for any period of time, and you’ll be allowed to discard the numbers when you have no further use for them.
If yours is a seasonal business, it might be more convenient for you to set up virtual extensions rather than buying new phone numbers with each coming season. Rather than investing a great deal of time and effort into considering whether virtual numbers are right for your company, it would probably be well worth your while to just try a few, and see how many uses you find for them throughout your business.